The TV ratings race for 2019 is still wide open as Nine battles to continue its hot streak when Australian Ninja Warrior kicks off on Monday.
Seven has yet to strike reality gold in 2020 – House Rules has been its best performer, while The Super Switch tanked – but continues to perform strongly in other key TV ratings areas such as nightly news.
The new season of Ninja Warrior will perform well, “but will not shoot the lights out and stir up as much popularity” as in previous years, media analyst Steve Allen predicts.
Ninja Warrior was a breakout hit in its first season, but struggled to repeat the feat last year. It also faced criticism that there was no overall winner, as no one had conquered the gruelling obstacle course.
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In a bid to boost audience share for 2019, promos boast “this year there will be a winner”, which seems unlikely (though not impossible). In 31 series broadcast globally, only six people have managed to successfully complete the course.
Closer inspection reveals the claim might be a technicality. Nine has introduced a $100,000 cash prize this year for the contestants who makes it ‘furthest and fastest’ on the course. Technically, they win.
Nine has had a “near-faultless year” so far, and to win the TV ratings year, Seven needs a primetime hit, Mr Allen told The New Daily.
“In my view, it will come down to [end of year] programming … like it did last year,” he said.
So what have the networks got in store for the second half?
With the The Voice wrapping on Sunday, Ninja Warrior steps into the 7.30pm seat for its three-week run. The Block comes soon after – always a solid performer – as well as Hamish and Andy’s Perfect Holiday. Trash-fest Love Island moves to the main channel this year, and Karl Stefanovic returns to the network’s bosom with This Time Next Year, which should appeal to his loyal fans. There is also a ‘yet to be announced’ drama in the works.
Seven still has dating show The Proposal in the line-up for 2019, Australia’s Got Talent (with Nicole Scherzinger, Lucy Durack and Manu Feildel) coming to Sundays soon, and event nights The All New Monty and Ladies Night. Bucking the ‘reality rules’ trend, Seven is leaning towards drama with Between Two Worlds from hit-maker Bevan Lee (Packed to the Rafters, A Place to Call Home) and high-stakes thriller Secret Bridesmaids’ Business starring Abbie Cornish. A bonus season of MKR (planned to run later this year) has been wisely postponed until 2020, lest viewers tire of the long-running favourite.
Further fragmenting audience share, Channel 10 will soon launch The Masked Singer Australia, hosted by Osher Gunsberg. Based on a South Korean concept, a US version took America by storm. The Amazing Race and The Bachelor (Matt Agnew) and The Bachelorette (Angie Kent) further boost reality stocks. The network has backed My Life is Murder, a local production with US star Lucy Lawless and Bernard Curry and will air a second season of footy WAG drama Playing For Keeps. Ten will repeat its Pilot Week experiment in search of new concepts for 2020.
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With so much varied programming to come and the added variable of a fast-changing sporting roster, one thing is certain: It will be a tight race to the TV ratings finish line.